I have been thinking, recently, about the value of some experiments that would look at the effects of religious prejudice in various types of decision-making.
Create a folder about a person and fill it with relevant information for, for example, a political appointment, a parole hearing, an assessment for an award or grant, a military commendation, a grade for a school paper.
Take the same folder and alter a few basic facts, but leave the rest of the information exactly the same. Specifically, while the original folder mentions membership in and participation in various religious activities, the counterpart folder mentions membership in and participation in equivalent secular organizations.
Then, give these folders to evaluators and look at the results.
See what effect religious belief will have on the evaluations that people give different candidates.
For example, write up a senior paper for high school. Put it in a folder with the student's personal evaluation. In one case, the student is described as a President of the school's Bible Club. In the other, he is a member of the school's Atheist and Freethinkers' Club. Then, look at the grades the teachers give the students.
Or, better yet, write a report in which the students are being recommended for disciplinary action, and one is soliciting an impartial opinion on what level of punishment would be appropriate. In one folder, put a letter from a pastor testifying to the student’s character. In the other, put a comparable letter from the head of a local atheist organization.
Or, create a resume and job application for a candidate who is seeking a job. Give that resume and job application to some hiring managers and see if they will accept the candidate for an interview. Then, hand out a folder that is identical except the candidate’s religious affiliations are replace with atheist affiliations, and look at the results.
One study that I am particularly interested in would involve folders showing two candidates for state legislature or some other minor political office and ask people to read through the material and decide which candidate they would vote for. Then, create two folders identical to the original folder except one of the candidates is made to be an atheist. Everything else is the same.
This will allow somebody to say that he against a candidate for some reason other than his atheism. However, the research should tell how important atheism is as a matter of fact.
Again, the same types of studies can be set up for military review boards who are recommending soldiers for promotion or commendation, parole hearings, loan applications, anything where one person gets to sit in judgment of others, and look at what the results are.
I have my predictions as to what those studies will turn out. I predict that this research would show that being an "out" atheist puts one at greater risk of being denied jobs, promotions, bonuses, social recognition (such as awards), grants, political appointments, public office, a not-guilty verdict at a trial, a lighter sentence where punishment is judged appropriate, a favorable result at a parole hearing, an A on a high-school paper (though possibly not college).
I would like to see some empirical data on just how much bigotry exists against atheists in this country.